Do you ever second guess yourself and worry that you may be doing things for the wrong reasons? Do you ever delve into the inner workings of your brain and screw yourself up digging endlessly down into that dizzying circle of self-doubt? Do you question why exactly you did that kind thing for that person? Or why you feel so happy and good about yourself after giving up something you want? Or why indeed you feel the need to live a good life and do what your conscience says is right? Is it because you truly and whole-heartedly wish to serve God and glorify Him above all else? Or is there perchance a tiny, barely discernible, selfish ulterior motive beneath those good deeds, which is your true motivation?
I'm an analyzer. And a worrier. So yes. I have worried about my honest motivations on numberless occasions. And I'm ashamed to say that more often than not my motives probably are wrong.
First off, read this post by Naomi because she says it really well. This is one of the things I'm talking about. The habit of doing good things while secretly, deep down, wishing to be noticed and praised for it. We do it unconsciously. We have the best of selfless intentions in mind, but when we're through we realize we're disappointed that we didn't get any affirmation for our noble endeavors.
That's one example. But there's another one I've noticed about myself, too. Those times when there's nobody to see the good deed I'm doing, so there's no way of my doing it out of a desire to be praised for it. In those times my motives must be unselfish, right? I must truly be doing it for God and not for myself. Is it not so?
And yet that little voice in my head says that there's something still underlying it. Says that deep down I'm doing it for a reason other than a pure desire to honor my Creator. Am I, perhaps, only being good for myself? I fully believe that obeying God is the right thing to do, but am I obeying Him because I love Him or because I want to feel secure in the thought that I am in the right. That I am a good person. That I am someone to be proud of. (Because boy! do I like to be proud of myself.)
I've been reading The Lady's Confession by George MacDonald and this paragraph stood out to me as describing with painful accuracy the feeling I've had about my motives at times.
"Faber's main weak point was, that though he was indeed tender hearted and did kindnesses not to be seen of men, he did them to be seen of himself. The boy was in the man, doing his deeds and seeking the praise of his own conscience. Though perhaps this was not a grievous wrong, it was poor and childish and obstructed his higher development. He liked to think himself a benefactor. Such a man may well be of noble nature, but he is a mere dabbler in nobility, for a certain degree of pride is always inherent in such a view of oneself."
[The Lady's Confession by George MacDonald]
This shook me rather. Because I know it's true. I'm prideful. I like to watch myself do nice things for people. I like to think that people are grateful to me for those things, and that they love and appreciate me for them. Indeed I think about myself far and away too much.
And realizing this I naturally fall into a bout of worry and discouragement. Because I want to have pure motives. And yet lofty thoughts of myself always seem to creep in. And so I fret over this wickedness inside me; grasping for some way to rid myself of it; and yet finding that in this matter I am utterly and completely helpless.
When you discover a sin in yourself, do you ever fall into the thinking that now that you've discovered it you can't move on until you've overcome it? I do. Knowing it's there means it is my duty to get rid of it. Henceforth, immediately.
But I can't.
And that's where the hopeless feelings of unworthiness start to set in and drag me down until I feel that there's no way in the world I can ever measure up to God's standard, and be the person He wants me to be. And guess what? That's true. I can't! I can't do any of that. It's God alone who can do it in me, and when I come to realize that, well...it lifts the weight a bit. And I cling to Him, and cry,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23-24
God is the one who searches me. He is the one who knows me. He's aware of the deepest, darkest places in my broken and sinful heart. Even before the foundation of the world He knew. And still He called me. Called me His own. Reached out His hand, took me up, and said,
"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another."
We cry out to God, hoping and pleading that He will see our contrite hearts and have pity on us. But do we not realize? He's already done that! We didn't choose Him. He chose us! What a marvelous, humbling truth that is.
"Our Father which art in heaven, we Thy children are often troubled in mind, hearing within us at once the affirmation of faith and the accusations of conscience. We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as Thou art. Yet Thou hast declared Thine unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what Thou hast declared Thyself to be. Amen."
[The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer]
It is God Himself who will work the change in us that we so desperately need. God Himself that will purge all darkness from our hearts and make us pure. We can trust Him for that. We can throw aside all of our worries and fears and trust Him completely to mold us and shape us into the people He wants us to be. It's not too big a job for Him. Not in the slightest.
And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible."